I recently discovered a gem of a website (by way of Jen at “Et Tu?”, the same spot where I discover many, many other “gems”). The 10 Minute Writer is the perfect hangout for moms who write or any scribe who’s short on time. Its creator and author Kathy Grub, a busy homeschooling mom of five, asked me to take one of her 10 Minute Writing Challenges.
Do you think a competitive, Type Aer like myself could turn down something with the word “challenge” in it? I don’t think so.
So here goes…
The question: “What practical things do you do to find time for your writing?”
My answer (a timer is set for 10 minutes):
• I don’t watch TV. That’s not technically true. My husband and I do occasionally watch Netflix selections for date nights, but we don’t even pay for basic cable. It’s easy to keep TV off when there’s nothing on it (besides finger smudges). However, the Internet can easily suck me in because there’s limitless information just a few key strokes and a click away. To prevent me from Googling when I’m supposed to be writing, I make a rule of closing my browser and staying in MS Word.
• I write on the go. I stash journals everywhere and squeeze in short spurts of writing when I can.
Arrrghhhh….Hold on. I pause the timer to see what my preschooler needs. Okay, I’m back. Daddy is bathing my preschooler. Baby is still sawing logs.
Back to writing….So I keep journals in my purse, one downstairs, and one upstairs. (I also have journals devoted to each child where I scribble down cute anecdotes, etc. and finally, I have a faith journal. I guess I’m sort of a journal addict.)
Stop the timer. Start the timer. Baby crying. Arrrgghhh… Stop the timer. I promise, I can usually find 10 minutes to write.
A few hours later… I’m back. Now where was I?
Ah yes, journals. Jotting down ideas in journals is important because I often only have small pockets of time between diaper changes, crafts with a big mess-factor, meals and snacks (also with big mess factors), naps, and trips to the zoo. When I’m really in a time crunch, I sometimes say my ideas aloud into a small tape recorder (the same one I use for interviews) to be transcribed later…like in 20 years when all my kids are almost completely self-sufficient.
• I ask for help. I didn’t use to be too good at this, but I’m getting better. I have a father-in-law who is retired and loves to play with the girls, so I let him. He comes twice a month for a few hours and this is the time I often devote to writing. After the kiddos are asleep, I occasionally bail ship (armed with my laptop) and leave Daddy in charge and treat myself to a latte at a coffee shop.
• I try to get up early (usually after the baby’s early-morning nursing around 5ish). TRY is the operative word. Since becoming the mom to an insomniac three-and-a-half year ago, it’s not always easy for me to drag myself out of bed and I don’t beat myself up if I decide to be lazy.
• Quiet time is non-negotiable. The baby still naps; the preschooler rarely does (and never really did), but she still has to have quiet time. I try to catch up on many things during this mommy break, including writing.
• I try to not put pressure on myself to produce great tomes or award-worthy journalism. I don’t devote nearly as much time to shooting off queries or landing assignments that require extensive research or lengthy interviews since baby #2 came along. I still write an occasional feature, but these days I try to stick to personal essays or work that is easier on a tired mommy (I’ve found faith-based publications are very parent-friendly.). I’ve also decided that even if I don’t have any assignments brewing, I’ve got to write. I aim to write for at least 20 minutes every day. Even if I churn out garbage or simply a recount of the dance party the girls and I had in the living room, I keep writing. I have to. But that Great American Novel can wait; my kids sometimes can’t. They need a mommy even when it’s not exactly convenient – like when she’s trying to do a 10-minute writing challenge.
(I cheated. I went over 47 seconds. Sorry!)